She turns 49 today. That hardly seems possible. I still remember her sitting at the kitchen table in our Weston Village apartment, layering her blue eye shadow as she gazed into her Clairol multi-light mirror. Styx played in the background as she flipped her bangs with a large-barreled curling iron and meticulously applied her shiny, pink lip gloss. And a spritz of Love’s Baby Soft? Probably.
My morning ritual was a little less involved. Zip up my plaid St. Michael’s uniform skirt, throw a pair of shorts under it for those high-intensity recess kickball games, and head out the door.
Six years older, my sister was more of a second Mom to me when we were growing up. We couldn’t have been more different, Carrie and I. She always had her nose buried in a book or glued to a TV soap opera while I terrorized the apartment complex, dug through the washing machines for loose change, and learned how to smoke cigarettes in the field across the street. When she was hanging out with her true-blue friends, I was beating all the neighborhood boys in a high stakes game of “Horse.”
It was just the three of us… Mom, Carrie, me.
The Three Amigos, us against the world.
Carrie and I shared a room growing up. Our apartment was small — just two bedrooms — and our bikes were parked in the hallway that separated our room from the bathroom. I used to complain about having to share a bedroom. Carrie was messy, I was meticulously neat. I was constantly tattling about her unmade bed, her clothes on the floor. I even used masking tape — our Mom’s favorite household tool — to create a visible line down the middle of our bedroom and out the door. She had to exit and enter on the right, I claimed the left. I always wanted more as a child… my own bedroom, a house with a yard, new clothes. I was demanding and needy and difficult to please. (Not altogether different than I am today. I’m learning though… minute by minute, year by year.) But at night, when I could hear her measured breathing in the twin bed less than ten feet from my own, I was always silently filled with gratitude. For the security she gave me, for the abundant love in our small home, for Mom, for Carrie.
When I think about my sister, I think about her smile more than anything. That huge, welcoming grin, those deep, gorgeous dimples. Carrie smiles a lot, always has. Even when she had to take me on her dates. And she took me on a lot of dates back in the day. I remember drive-in movies, nighttime sledding trips, summer days tubing on Whitewater. I was her third wheel, and I loved every minute of it. In all honesty, I think it might have been hardest on me when she and Rob broke up.
And one of my favorite memories? ADAM ANT! For my birthday! Remember when he was seductively lowered into that pool of water, Carrie? Remember?Remember when I stood up on my seat at Market Square Arena and cheered wildly while he sang “Strip?” Be still, my heart.
Carrie and I have always been like night and day. And for many of my volatile, know-it-all years, our differences separated us more than I’d like to admit. I was always right, always standing in judgment. Like every important and high-growth stage of my life, it took me a while to meander through, look back, and realize what truly mattered. When I — in all my superior-ness — was certain I had all the answers, Carrie just smiled and nodded and went about her business.
I am guilty of taking many things for granted in this lifetime, including the gift of my sister. For too many years, she was in my life, but not necessarily a part of my life. I will never, ever go back there. The treasure on this side is far too precious, too rare, too valuable.
Thank God she never gave up on me.
As different as we might be, we are similar in some ways as well. We share a bit of a dramatic streak. Kevin might recall the Upside Down Chicken Incident. Chris (and poor George) might think back to yesterday (yes, yesterday) and the Dishwasher Slamming / Wine Glass Breaking Incident. We’ve both been known to shed loud, angsty tears. We’ve both been known to laugh straight through to the inevitable pants wetting.
And we both know how to love. I’m pretty sure we have our beautiful, devoted mother to thank for that.
I’m grateful to my big sister for so many things… for taking care of me when I was young, for blazing the trail through our childhood, for showing me how to love through her unwavering devotion to Kevin, for teaching by example how to sustain long and lasting friendships, for giving me the gift of Amber and Andy, for modeling how to persevere in the face of disappointment, for reminding me how important it is to stand in gratitude for all that we’ve been given, for teaching me in advance how to be a doting Memaw, for being kind… always, unequivocally kind.
But most of all, I’m grateful for the gift that she is to this world. I could not have asked for a better sister. I could not be more blessed to have her in my life.
I look forward with great anticipation to all the memories we’ve yet to make.
Happy, happy birthday, Carrie! Enjoy the last wonderful year of your 40s. This time next year, you’ll cross into a whole new decade. I’m glad you’ll traverse the half-century journey first… you always seem to know the way.
Thanks for bringing me along for the wonderful, glorious ride.